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Head of Catholic Hospital Dies of Ebola

The Spanish priest Miguel Pajares – Ebola virus

Juan Ciudad ONGD

Aleteia - published on 08/05/14

Liberian institution isolated after religious brother's death.

Brother Patrick Nshamdze, director of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, died after contracting the Ebola virus, according to Fides news agency. Brother Nshamdze, a native of Cameroon, had studied in Rome and was a member of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God.

The Ebola virus is spreading alarmingly in West Africa. After Brother Nshamdze’s death, the hospital was isolated, and three confreres—two Spaniards and a friar of Ghana—who had assisted him when there was no certainty of diagnosis, have undergone tests.

A serum that that is hoped to provide a cure for ebola has been tested on two sick missionaries in Liberia, currently in quarantine in St. Joseph Hospital. In the U.S., the serum was used on two Americans who became ill in Liberia and now both feel better: Kent Brantly, the first doctor, already returned home on Sunday and is at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, and Nancy Writebol, a nurse, arrived today.

"The authorities have isolated all public offices and also our hospital in order to carry out the operations of disinfestation," Brother Pascal Ahodegnon, general councilor in charge of the African area of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God, told Fides. "Another of our confreres, of Spanish nationality, and two sisters have been hospitalized."

Brother Ahodegnon says that "Liberia is isolated, but we continue to provide assistance with our facilities while our NGO is sending aid, which unfortunately is not enough to make up for all the needs."

"As there is still no specific cure for Ebola, what is needed are sanitizers, gloves and masks to protect healthcare workers as well as IVs and anticoagulant to rehydrate patients and stop bleeding. So far these are the only measures to try to prevent the disease from spreading," he said. 

On Monday, the World Health Organization said the death toll had increased to 887 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, and that more than 1,600 people have been infected.

The American missionaries infected with Ebola are getting an experimental drug so novel it has never been tested for safety in humans and was only identified as a potential treatment earlier this year, thanks to a longstanding research program by the U.S. government and the military, the Associated Press reported. Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly, who work for the aid group SIM USA, are improving, although it’s impossible to know whether the treatment is the reason or they are recovering on their own, as others who have survived Ebola have done. They were infected while working in Liberia. 

In a worrisome development, the Nigerian Health Minister said a doctor who had helped treat Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American man who died July 25 days after arriving in Nigeria, has been confirmed to have the deadly disease. Tests are pending for three other people who also treated Sawyer and are showing symptoms.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Ebola, but several are under development.

The experimental treatment the U.S. aid workers are getting is called ZMapp and is made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. of San Diego. It is aimed at boosting the immune system’s efforts to fight off Ebola and is made from antibodies produced by lab animals exposed to parts of the virus.

In a statement, the company said it was working with LeafBio of San Diego, Defyrus Inc. of Toronto, the U.S. government and the Public Health Agency of Canada on development of the drug, which was identified as a possible treatment in January.

The drug is made in tobacco plants at Kentucky BioProcessing, a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc., in Owensboro, Kentucky, said spokesman David Howard. The plant "serves like a photocopier," and the drug is extracted from the plant, he said.

Kentucky BioProcessing complied with a request from Emory and the international relief group Samaritan’s Purse to provide a limited amount of ZMapp to Emory, he said. Brantly works for the aid group.

The Kentucky company is working "to increase production of ZMapp but that process is going to take several months," Howard said. The drug has been tested in animals and testing in humans is expected to begin later this year.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must grant permission to use experimental treatments in the United States, but the FDA does not have authority over the use of such a drug in other countries, and the aid workers were first treated in Liberia. An FDA spokeswoman said she could not confirm or deny FDA granting access to any experimental therapy for the aid workers while in the U.S.

Writebol, 59, had been in isolation at her home in Liberia since she was diagnosed last month. She’s now walking with assistance and has regained her appetite, said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based group that she works for in Africa.

Writebol has received two doses of the experimental drug so far, but Johnson was hesitant to credit the treatment for her improvement.

"Ebola is a tricky virus and one day you can be up and the next day down. One day is not indicative of the outcome," he said. But "we’re grateful this medicine was available."

Brantly, 33, also was said to be improving. Besides the experimental dose he got in Liberia, he also received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy, an Ebola survivor, who had been under his care. That seems to be aimed at giving Brantly antibodies the boy may have made to the virus.

Samaritan’s Purse initiated the events that led to the two workers getting ZMapp, according to a statement Monday by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The group contacted U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials in Liberia to discuss various experimental treatments and were referred to an NIH scientist in Liberia familiar with those treatments.

The scientist answered some questions and referred them to the companies but was not officially representing the NIH and had no "official role in procuring, transporting, approving, or administering the experimental products," the statement says.
The CDC last week told U.S. doctors to ask about foreign travel by patients who come down with Ebola-like symptoms, including fever, headache, vomiting and diarrhea. A spokesman said three people have been tested so far in the U.S. — and all tested negative. Additionally, a New York City hospital on Monday said a man was being tested for Ebola but he likely didn’t have it.

Writebol and her husband, David, had been in Liberia since last August, sent there by SIM USA and sponsored by their home congregation at Calvary Church in Charlotte. At the clinic, Nancy Writebol’s duties included disinfecting staff entering or leaving the Ebola treatment area.

"Her husband, David, told me Sunday her appetite has improved and she requested one of her favorite dishes – Liberian potato soup — and coffee," SIM’s Johnson said.

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